Commentary: Why Governments Can't
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 27-Mar-10; 11 minutes
This week I received an email from Linda Stites, who was with us here today. It contained about a ten minute portion of a speech delivered by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. He gave a speech before a group called the "Campaign for Liberty," shortly before the healthcare legislation passed. Judge Napolitano is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the state of New Jersey. That probably means that intellectually, anyway, he is most likely quite qualified to give the speech on this matter that he spoke on.
He spoke briefly about how the government has abused the American Constitution by assuming powers not granted by the Constitution. Among the most devious of these is the authority to regulate virtually everything within and without. They are regulating everything now. It's gotten so that one can hardly turn around without breaking a law.
Are you aware that individual FBI agents are now legally franchised by the Patriot Act to hand write a warrant, give it to you, and demand that you tell no one that you received it or you will go to jail? This is true. In such a situation, they have made it illegal for the person receiving the warrant to tell the truth if he is asked that he received the warrant. What it does, it puts the citizen into an incredible, convoluted Catch-22 no-win mess. if he tells the truth—"Yes, I got the warrant"—he goes to jail.
But then the judge began talking about the health care regulation, asking the question, "How is it possible that the government can operate healthcare better than it is now being done, when it's track record is already absolutely dismal?" They operate Social Security, do not they? It's broke. Medicare? It's broke. Medicaid? It's broke. The Post Office is broke. Amtrak is broke. And yet President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are proclaiming that they are going to save money and provide better healthcare.
Why can't the government operate programs so that, like private businesses, they show a profit, or at least operate within their budgets? Well, the broad answer to that question is that they cannot, because it is not within the nature of governments to do so.
There are a number of reasons why this circumstance exists, but I want to limit myself to two large principles. Government inefficiency, first of all, is universal. Efficiency is missing from government operations worldwide. It is not just an American problem; the same problem exists everywhere.
As I comment, please understand that I do not intend to accuse every single person who works for government. I'm painting here with a broad brush in order to make an overall point, and not get to the place where I am saying that everybody is guilty of this, because there are some good workers.
I want to illustrate from my own experience. These are things that I remember. I was born at the beginning of the Great Depression, when jobs were very scarce and work did not become plentiful until World War II began. Then, steady jobs and incomes almost magically appeared in the work area. I mean, there was so much work that there were young people—you know, teenage, high school age kids—who were getting jobs in the war effort industries. In fact, I even got a job. I was in the eighth grade. It was not in the war effort, but because of it, I became steadily employed at the age of twelve, making thirty five cents an hour.
But even when I was a boy, it was a strongly held public opinion that if you wanted a job security, even though the income was not great, one should work for the government. Jokes about government operations are a dime a dozen. Most of the jokes surround the concept that government projects have far more workers than needed, and the workers spend a lot of time standing around. In other words, there are a lot of men but very little activity. This is something that a private business owner would never put up with.
In addition, it is generally very difficult to get rid of government employees through layoffs or firings. In plain words, working for the government is a very secure position, and—here comes one of the principles—security creates an atmosphere of contentment. In the Bible, contentment creates Laodiceanism. The Laodicean, out of his sense of complacency and security, says, "I am rich"—and brethren, that's a relative term. Rich compared to what? "I am rich and increased with goods, and I have need of nothing. I'm secure already as it is."
One of the things that we need to understand in regard to this question is that a sense of security can be subtly devastating. It blunts motivation to succeed, to be increased, to grow, to develop further.
I wonder if you've ever noticed that in Deuteronomy 8, God said to Israel that He humbled them—purposely. He humbled them, He caused them to hunger, and He fed them things that they were not accustomed to. God deliberately kept Israel on edge and dependent so that they wouldn't get overly secure. In other words, if they wanted to continue to go forward, they had to go by the way of asking God for it. He kept them on edge.
Government will never do things efficiently because the overwhelming bulk of its employees aren't on fire for a cause. There is little or nothing—no overriding incentive—to motivate them to push onward and upward. And so what they do is they protect their position.
There is a second reason directly tied to what I previously said and the two work together. This one you ought to recognize right away: There is little or no personal profit involved in their labors. There are six or seven chapters in the book of Joshua, devoted to showing that when God settled Israel in Canaan—remember, God was their government—He apportioned land to every family. He gave every family a direct stake in not only their family's economy, but also in the entire nation's economy because they were landowners. They owned, as it were, a part of the nation's wellbeing. They became stockholders in the nation's wellbeing. Because they were farmers, they were dependent upon weather, and guess Who controlled the weather? Each Israelite thus was tied to the higher power.
God clearly shows He is not against rewarding people for their labors. No government on Earth can emulate what God did, and that is why they cannot work efficiently. Instead, what occurs is each person sees himself as an island isolated, weary and directionless, fighting the battles of life on his own and just trying to hold on to what he already has. Efficiency goes right out the window.